The old Celtics Ubuntu was back as Ray Allen joined hall of fame
SPRINGFIELD — Hours before his coronation as one of the all-time greats, among the legends of the game, Ray Allen received the support, congratulations, and perhaps the embrace he was seeking.
Allen was the first of the Celtics’ Big Three to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and he commented Thursday that had not received any kudos from any of his Celtics teammates, words primarily meant for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Allen was visibly disappointed because he believed they had formed a brotherhood in their five years, despite his defection to the Miami Heat and despite the conflicted stories about some of those difficult times where egos clashed and resentment prevailed.
In Kevin Garnett’s understated style, he posted a tweet early Friday with “Ubuntu,” the team’s motto during the 2007-08 season with a picture of him, Pierce, James Posey, and Allen posing with the championship trophy, along with another photo of the team moments after winning the title and a quote from Doc Rivers that said he would choose that team to win one game “for my life.”
It’s not that Garnett hasn’t mentioned Allen in the past six years, but it’s never been this positive or in this light. It may have been Garnett taking a step toward Allen, one that he has been waiting for.
From Los Angeles, taping a television show for ESPN, Pierce offered Allen his congratulations on air, reiterating he has no issues with his former teammate.
And to cap off the evening, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made an appearance at the ceremony and was part of Allen’s introductory interviews prior to his speech.
Allen spoke for 18 minutes, touching on his entire basketball journey, including Boston.
“It wasn’t until my 12th year when [I joined] the Boston Celtics, where I paired up with a couple of future Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett,” he said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I’d be on the stage, so all of this to happen it took the basketball mind of Danny Ainge to make it possible, so thank you Danny.”
That wasn’t the first time Ainge was mentioned during the evening. Hall of Famer Steve Nash described how he used to play a 37-year-old Ainge, then coaching the Phoenix Suns, in one-on-one before practice and how Ainge wouldn’t stop playing until all the players showed up ready to work out.
It was a special night for the Celtics. Charlie Scott, a member of the 1976 title team, was inducted along with fan favorite Dino Radja, who played four seasons in Boston after coming over from the former Yugoslavia.
Radja was inducted more for his international accomplishments. He was a two-time Euroleague champion, FIBA World Cup gold medalist, and Olympic silver medalist. He also won two title in Greece, two Croatian Cups, and was named as one of FIBA’s 50 greatest players.
Radja, 51, was completely humbled by his induction, speaking emotionally about how he didn’t know he was even on the ballot until a few months before he was inducted. He called Boston his second home and ended his speech with “Go Patriots!”
Scott, 69, was the first African-American scholarship athlete at the University of North Carolina and was also a 1968 Olympian. He played for the Celtics for 2½ years, helping Boston to its 13th NBA title as a smooth-shooting swingman.
He wore a pin with “10” in black and trimmed in green on his lapel, an honor to close friend and Hall of Famer Jo Jo White, who passed away in January.
A surprise attendee Friday was Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, who took a photo with inductee Jason Kidd and watched attentively.
Finally for Allen, he received the appreciation and admiration that he felt he never quite received as an active player. He wanted to be considered more than a shooter. He wanted to be known for more his hard work than God-given ability. He wanted to be known as more than a player who hit a couple of big 3-pointers to help win championships.
“I really learned on the nights that we won championships, you think you want to go out and celebrate, you think you want to go out and party,” he said. “But you realize you didn’t win the championship on that night.
“You won a championship that day when you got up and you had four games in five nights and you went to practice every single day. That’s when you became a champion, repeating those boring, old habits every single day, performing your craft, getting on the treadmill, eating breakfast every morning, hitting the gym, lifting the weights. This was my routine every single day.
“And what’s most incredible about it, is that I loved it. I wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else in the world.”
With his wife Shannon and five children looking on, Allen became emotional when talking about the support of his family and the sacrifice they made when he was working feverishly on his game. He called Shannon the “GM, fan, ball kid, and whatever else that you did.”
Allen was gracious, soft spoken, expressive, and prepared, just like his playing days. And finally, he got the support, the backing he truly deserves from Boston.